great English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg releases four of his earliest
and most acclaimed albums on ‘Billy Bragg Volume 1’ -
a boxed set featuring seven CDs and two DVDs with a wealth of rare
and previously unreleased tracks – which is in Irish stores
on 3rd March 2006.
All four albums will be also available as individual releases on
the same day :::
boxed set comprises:
a Riot with Spy Vs Spy’ - Billy’s 1983
debut recording together with a bonus CD featuring 11 extra
tracks. ‘Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy’ is
also separately released as a two-CD set
Up with Billy Bragg’ – the original 1984
album and a bonus CD with 11 additional tracks. The album is
also separately available as a two-CD set
with the Taxman About Poetry’ – Bragg’s
1986 album plus 10 extra tracks on a bonus CD. ‘Talking
with the Taxman About Poetry’ is also separately released
as a two-CD set
Internationale’ – Billy’s 1990 release,
now combined with his ‘Live & Dubious’
EP and five bonus tracks. The package comes with a
bonus DVD called ‘Here & There’
documenting Bragg’s then-pioneering appearances in East
Berlin, Nicaragua and Lithuania during the Eighties. The album
is also separately available as a two-disc set
the West Down to the East’ – a DVD featuring
the South Bank Show’s March 1985 profile of Billy Bragg
together with film of his August 1986 concert in East Berlin.
This DVD is exclusive to the boxed set
Bragg Volume 1’ chronicles
Bragg’s extraordinary contribution to the political and cultural
ferment of the Eighties. Balancing his earthy love songs with the
enduring tradition of such leftist troubadours as Pete Seeger, Phil
Ochs and Woody Guthrie, Bragg - armed only with a cheap electric
guitar – emerged as a completely compelling and totally convincing
one-man punk-folk activist.
Bragg was born
in December 1957. He was thus 19-years-old when, in 1977, punk made
its indelible contribution to English popular culture. Bragg’s
own particular contribution was to form a band called Riff Raff.
True cultural significance, however, was to escape Riff Raff, who
eventually split in 1981. Perhaps
remarkably, given Bragg’s punk antecedents, he briefly joined
a tank regiment of the British Army before buying his way out with
what he later described as the most wisely spent £175 of his
working in a record store, and absorbing his newfound love of blues
and politically inspired folk music, Bragg launched himself on a
solo musical career. Armed with a guitar, amplifier and voice, he
undertook a maverick tour of the concert halls and clubs of Britain,
ready at a moment’s notice to fill in as support for almost
His songs were
full of passion, anger and wit, a ‘one man Clash’. This
was not, however, what the major record companies wanted at the
time – the punk attitudes of the late-Seventies had long since
given way to the escapist rise of the New Romantics. Bragg, however,
finally managed to grab some studio time, courtesy of the Charisma
label’s indie subsidiary, Utility. The result was ‘Life’s
a Riot with Spy Vs. Spy’ (1983) which, when eventually
reissued as the first album on the new Go! Discs label, hit the
UK Top 30 in early 1984.
stark musical backdrop – for the most part a roughly strummed
electric guitar – and even starker vocals belied a keen sense
of melody and passionate, deeply humane lyrics. The album’s
opening track, ‘The Milkman of Human Kindness’,
for instance, was a love song of the most compassionate variety,
illustrating the very real humanist approach that informs his music.
It was an early indicator that Bragg’s work would be infused
with genuine insight and humour, as well as a sustained and personal
commitment to political and humanitarian issues.
how the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher was changing
the fabric of British society, particularly with the decimation
of the mining communities, Bragg’s songs became more overtly
political. He became a fixture at political rallies and benefits,
particularly during the 1984 Miners Strike. Indeed, his second album,
‘Brewing Up with Billy Bragg’ (1984),
opened with the fierce ‘It Says Here’,
a strident song of political solidarity.
The album went
Top 20 in the UK. Bragg was on something of a roll and even had
a Top 20 hit with the ‘Between the Wars’
EP (included as bonus tracks on ‘Volume 1’), the title
track of which he played live on BBC’s Top of the Pops –
something virtually unprecedented in those days of miming on television.
Billy also toured
extensively abroad, becoming one of the very few Western artists
to play in such countries as East Germany, Lithuania in the then-USSR
and Nicaragua – historic concerts that are highlighted on
the DVDs included in the ‘Volume 1’ boxed set.
At home in the
UK, much of Bragg’s time was occupied with Red Wedge - an
initiative to persuade young people to vote Labour in the 1987 General
Election – for which he toured with such luminaries as The
Style Council, Madness, The Communards and Morrissey. His credentials
as a songwriter, however, were confirmed when Kirsty MacColl released
her classic version of Bragg’s ‘A New England’
(a song he originally recorded on ‘Life’s a
Riot with Spy Vs. Spy’), which became a UK Top 10
hit in 1985.
third album, ‘Talking with the Taxman About Poetry’,
was released in September 1986. It was his most successful and accomplished
release to date – a Top 10 UK album spawning a hit single,
‘Levi Stubb’s Tears’, as well
as ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’,
a collaboration with The Smiths’ guitarist, Johnny Marr.
the Nineties with his most political work to date. ‘The
Internationale’, released in May 1990, included such
tracks as ‘The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions’,
‘Nicaragua Nicaraguita’ and Bragg’s
very personal rendition of the William Blake poem, ‘Jerusalem’
as well as the Socialist anthems, ‘The Red Flag’
and the title track, ‘The Internationale’.
Long since unavailable,
‘The Internationale’ is now restored
and reissued on ‘Volume 1’ where the
album’s seven original tracks are now complemented by the
strident politics of Bragg’s ‘Live & Dubious’
EP and his versions of such songs as the Woody Guthrie epic,
‘This Land is Your Land’, Phil Ochs’
‘Joe Hill’ and the Sam Cooke soul classic,
‘A Change Is Gonna Come’.
Bragg Volume 1’ will be followed by a further boxed
set chronicling his career through the Nineties and into the current
Not Hate tour includes Dublin's Vicar Street June 3rd
Bragg embarks on the HOPE NOT HATE tour
next April through June 2006, a special series of concerts in support
of three of the UK’s leading anti-Fascist organizations --
Unite, Love Music Hate Racism and Searchlight -- in the lead-up
to the important May local council elections. The Tour includes
a one-off Irish Show in Dublin's Vicar Street June 3rd.
Billy will be
playing with the Small Faces’ keyboards legend
Ian McLagan and supported by Seth Lakeman,
whose ‘Kitty Jay’ album was shortlisted
for the 2005 Nationwide Mercury Prize.
Not Hate tour is sponsored by four of the UK's major trade
unions -- Amicus, the GMB, the RMT and UNISON. Says Billy: “In
my home town, Barking, we've organised and begun to turn the tide
on the BNP. It couldn't have been done without the support of the
unions. If you want to know what trade unions are all about, it's
not just what happens in the workplace, it's about building communities
-- communities where people can live side by side in peace and prosperity.
That's why I'm so pleased that Amicus, the GMB, UNISON and the RMT
are supporting this tour and helping us take the Hope Not Hate message
out on the road."
The tour follows
Billy’s appearance at Which Side Are You On?,
a show he curates and hosts at the Barbican in London on Thursday
2nd February. The show focuses on songs of social engagement, from
the folk protests of the Fifties and Sixties through to the righteous
anger of the punk, rock and ska of the Seventies, Eighties and beyond.
The show in produced by the Barbican in association with BBC Four.
Tickets cost £25.00, £20.00 and £15.00.